It’s easy to believe our lives reside within our electronic devices, and especially if we fail to back them up to the cloud (that one is on me). They hold our memories; pictures of the ones we love and the moments we want to immortalize. They have the documents and files that hold everything we have made; papers we have written, projects we have built, and ideas that still need to be completed. They hold our music, which for some are the stories that define our experience. Most importantly, they are our access points to the world; a world they have made small.
On their screens, what was happening within a courthouse in Florida, on the patio at Taylor’s, at my parent’s home, or on my girlfriend’s vacation, all felt nearly as close as what I saw in front of my face here in Ghana. When I woke up a few mornings ago, just as the sun prepared to rise and found those devices gone, I felt my life pulled away with them. I felt that whatever corner of Accra the thieves had carried them too, they had carried a piece of me there also. I had spent months staring at those screens crafting a thesis I was proud of. I was within 15 pages of my master’s degree, and because I had moved my files to my desktop from the cloud rather than copying them there, those months of work disappeared.
My connection to my world, my home, and my people had been cut. I felt paralyzed, and it wasn’t because of the devices monetary value, it was because of everything of mine they represented and possessed. Then over the next few days, I began to see things for the first time. I recognized moments that previously had passed without notice and identified things that you can’t see if you aren’t really looking. I learned things about life that would have been lost upon me if my life had not been stolen.
When you start looking for the evil and all you find is the good, a country full of people eager to help, smile, and say hi to strangers, you learn about the human spirit. When you try to justify theft with the poverty at each turn and realize that in the face of poverty these people are genuinely happy, you learn about the human spirit. When you buy a mango in your neighborhood and the lady, who earns a few dollars a day selling fruit, nearly cries in her attempt to espouse her sympathy, you learn about the human spirit. When you go to work and the office queues to apologize on behalf of their country, all speaking in the first person as if they had robbed you, you learn about the human spirit. When the other students on this adventure, who have all had pieces of their life stolen, sit in the living room and together refuse to let it define this life changing experience, you learn about the human spirit. When that same group becomes closer and smiles more, you learn about the human spirit.
Without being robbed and losing a lot of physical property, I may have never learned what I came here to try and understand. I would have never gained real insights into what it means to be human and what is really important within the human experience.
Happiness can be found anywhere and in any circumstance. As long as you remember it is what you are pursuing, a smile can be found as readily within a pent-house loft as it can beside a wood fuelled cooking fire. A laugh can be shared and enjoyed as heartily by two executives as by two street pedlars, as long as they remember that laughing is what’s important. A family can share as much love within a one-room hut as they can in a mansion, as long they remind each other how much love they share.
Thank you to Ghana for reminding me what matters in life, even if you did steal a few pieces of it in the process.